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Alfalfa crop milked by bad luck

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Elaine Corn: Alfalfa is the biggest crop in California, with about a million acres worth a billion dollars a year. Alfalfa is also the main source of feed for DAIRY cows. It’s the first link in the food chain that gives us butter, yogurt, cheese, cream and milk.


Dan Putnam: We have a saying that alfalfa is ice cream in the making.


That’s Dan Putnam, a UC agronomist specializing in alfalfa. But in California, the alfalfa crop is in trouble from bad weather and a life-sucking pest called the alfalfa stem nematode. Putnam predicts growers in the Sacramento Valley will miss the first of six or seven alfalfa cuttings. Joe O’Donnell of the California Dairy Research Foundation in Davis says this could have implications for the butter on your bread.


Joe O’Donnell: If alfalfa is short, then the price of alfalfa will go up, which means the dairy farmer will have to pay more, which means that he’s got to get more out of the marketplace.


Elaine Corn: Alfalfa is also straining from hard rains and recent cool temperatures. Putnam says with better weather, the alfalfa crop could right itself.


Dan Putnam: Alfalfa’s a very resilient crop, and it’s likely to come back in the summer time and yield normally in many cases.


Elaine Corn: Which could prevent a squeeze on cheese and the rest of the products in the dairy case.
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